It takes time to build your email reputation, yet no time at all to drag it into the gutter. To reach the inbox, you need a strong sender reputation.
Your recipients’ Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are keeping tabs on your sending behavior. By that we mean, they’re assigning you an email sender reputation score, and they’re considering multiple indicators as they do it.
Your email sender reputation is a multi-faceted, ever-evolving score that varies depending on the ISP and how it calculates it. The factors used to calculate it aren’t shared publicly, so you’ll never know exactly how an ISP calculates your sender reputation score.
Fortunately, there are metrics you can track and measures you can take to boost your sender reputation. Let’s dive into a checklist of the top factors you should consider to do just that.
Check list of the top factors and tools for understanding your email reputation
- How email reputation affects deliverability
- Monitor your sending domain and IP reputation
- Conduct spam-filter testing
- Monitor your inbox placement
- Track email authentication & suspicious activity
- Monitoring for blocklist inclusion
- Subscribe to feedback loops
- Email bounce rate
- Quality of your email content
Essential factors: a brief breakdown
While we’ll go into detail about most of these below, here’s a preview of what some of these factors mean:
We’ll then give you an example of a step-by-step, proactive plan you can use to gain a clearer understanding of the factors that can impact your email reputation the most.
A receiving ISP assesses the overall health of your email sending domain, defining that health (or lack thereof) as your domain reputation. This is their way of determining if you’re a credible sender by watching to see how recipients perceive your email sending domain, and looking at all of the possible metrics associated with that domain name. It also plays a significant role in the way an ISP quantifies your email reputation score, in general. Think of it like a test score – the higher the score, the more “trustworthy” your domain.
Just like your sending domain, the IP address you use to send emails also has its own reputation with every ISP. An ISP keeps tabs on your sending behavior, including the interaction between their server and yours. Like a domain reputation score, your IP reputation (and what encompasses this score) also varies by ISP.
Email bounce rate
An email bounces when there is either a temporary (soft bounce) or permanent (hard bounce) failure of delivery. If you send emails and they continue to bounce, it can negatively impact your email reputation — especially in the case of a hard bounce. That’s because a hard bounce indicates that you’re sending emails to an email address you shouldn’t be.
Whether that’s because you’ve hit a spam trap or sent your email to an abandoned address on your unverified list, it’s critical to only send emails to verified email addresses and consenting recipients.
What does email reputation mean?
Email reputation, sometimes referred to as email sender reputation, is how an ISP determines if you’re trustworthy or not. While you’re not a Nigerian prince after a bank deposit or a director of a lottery fund seeking your grand prize winner, your intent doesn’t matter. Your sending behavior, however, does.
In other words, if you send an email like a spammer and otherwise behave like a spammer, an ISP will, indeed, crown you a spammer. And that’s not the type of designation your brand needs.
When that happens, you can kiss the inbox goodbye. That’s something no email marketer can afford to do. There’s a strong correlation (if not a causal connection) between high-level inbox placement and a strong email return on investment (ROI). The bottom line is, that you must hit the inbox every time (or at least as often as possible).
The impact of poor sender reputation on email deliverability
When an ISP deems you a trustworthy sender, more often than not, you’ll end up in your recipient’s inbox. But if you have a history of hitting spam traps, culling a high bounce rate, low engagements, and high user-spam complaints (among other things), chances are you’ll end up in the spam folder (or blocked outright).
What is email deliverability?
This is the million-dollar question, and frankly, one of the first questions you should be asking besides how your email reputation can affect it. Email deliverability (aka, inbox placement) means where your email specifically ends up after your recipient’s server accepts it. That could mean the spam folder or junk mail, but preferably the inbox.
How to get started understanding & monitoring your email reputation
Step 1: Pre-test your email content against major spam filters
The quality of your email content matters – to an extent. For one, if your subject line contains misspellings or the body of your email includes style errors, your recipient could report you as spam, which can negatively impact your sender reputation.
As far as triggering an ISP’s spam filter, while there isn’t a single word or phrase that can necessarily keep you out of your recipient’s inbox, there are precautionary measures you can take before you ever send your email campaign.
Pre-checking your email content with an email pre-check deliverability tool can help you understand your risk of hitting the major spam filters, such as Barracuda, Symantec Cloud, Spam Assassin, and more.
Step 2: Monitor your inbox placement
Once you send your email campaign, you can determine if it’s been delivered or not. But one thing you won’t know is where/which folder your email ended up once it was delivered. That could mean the spam folder, junk mail, inbox, or even in a specific tab, as in Gmail’s Promotions or Social tab designations.
Of course, you want it to end up in the inbox. Kickbox’s inbox placement testing can show you where your emails are landing within a specific mailbox provider.
This type of insight is invaluable because it’ll allow you to spot placement trends and optimize your future campaigns so that you can maximize your email ROI.
Step 3: Use a comprehensive domain and IP blocklist monitoring tool
If you’ve ended up on a major blocklist, then you’ve landed in some boiling water that doesn’t do your email reputation any good. It’s important to be informed of this as soon as it happens.
A blocklist is a real-time collection of email senders that may be sources of email abuse, like spam. Different lists have different criteria – some matter very little and some matter greatly, negatively impacting your ability to deliver mail successfully.
Whether you’ve hit a spam trap, have accrued too many user spam complaints, or engaged in some other activity to have drawn the ire of a blocklist publisher, the more informed you are, the more you’re able to assess and address the situation and the potential impact to your email program.
Kickbox’s blocklist monitoring tool allows you to choose the domains and IPs you want to monitor. If you do end up on a blocklist, we can provide you with actionable advice and support about how to delist to mitigate any further damage to your email reputation and program, in general.
Step 4: Track authentication failures & suspicious activities
ISPs will protect their inbox holders at all costs. When an incoming email arrives at their gates, if it isn’t clear you are who you claim to be, then you’re likely not getting through to the inbox. To build organic trust (and protect yourself), you must implement email authentication protocols.
What are email authentication protocols?
Email authentication is a series of technical solutions that can help ISPs determine which emails from your sending domain are authentic (and actually from you), while also rejecting spoofers who are pretending to be you.
You need to send an email that an ISP (and your recipients) will trust. Implementing email authentication protocols is a necessary step in earning their trust. As a result, your email campaign will be more likely to generate positive engagement.
Step 5: Subscribe to a feedback loop
If you’re a large-volume sender, you can gather valuable data from a feedback loop. This is a report generated by an ISP that showcases user feedback in the form of complaints, such as every recipient who marked your email as spam, along with any misunderstandings, positive feedback, and more.
If your email lands in your recipient’s inbox, they have the option to either read it (and hopefully engage further), delete it, or complain by marking it as Spam. With a feedback loop, you’ll gain a clearer understanding of when and why they complain, which is invaluable to maintaining a positive email reputation, in general.
Subscribe to the available feedback loops (in most cases your ISP will do this for you and process the reports). Access to this will allow you to make necessary adjustments that can shield your sender reputation in the long run.
Step 6: Seek extra support from a deliverability consultant
Email reputation is complicated. And the fact that it differs from one ISP to the next, and that it’s always changing, doesn’t help matters. An expert deliverability consultant can dissipate the fog surrounding sender reputation and how it’s affecting your inbox placement.
Sometimes, just knowing you can go to an easily-accessible expert when you have questions or need advice about a particular sender reputation improvement idea or a better deliverability strategy is all it takes to get you back on track.
Ready to improve your email reputation & land in the inbox with Kickbox?
You do everything in your power to protect the ethos and integrity of your brand. Your sender reputation needs the same attention and dedication.
Kickbox’s suite of deliverability tools will provide you with the monitoring wherewithal you need to track indicators that can weigh heavily on your sender reputation.
When you have accurate metrics at your fingertips, you’ll be able to tailor your strategy to improve your sender reputation and ultimately your inbox placement.
Sign up today. It’s free. Our team of experts in privacy, anti-spam, and deliverability can help you create a plan of action to better understand the factors that impact your sender reputation the most.